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All Things Christmassy in Poland


Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
18 Dec 2015 #91
Christmas customs

I wonder if others have expereinced something similar either in Poland or abroad. In many PolAm families the problem of where to spend Christmas was a problem. A kind of emotional tug-o-war sometimes occurred with the poor husband in the middle, torn between his own family and his wife's.

By sheer coincidence (or Divine Providence?) my childhood memories were conflict- and worry-free in that regard.
Wigilia was always on the paternal side, Babcia being the ideal Polish homemaker who attached great importance to time-honoured tradition. My maternal gran didn't do a big Wigilia -- only a short-cut one for her husband and 3 daugthers after closing her little beer wine & sweet shop at 9pm. But she hosted a big Christmas dinner the next day (shop was closed). Same with Easter -- right-after-mass Polish Easter breakfast was always at my dad's parents' and Easter dinner on the maternal side.
dolnoslask
18 Dec 2015 #92
We used to alternate family houses each year so everyone got to host a Wigilia , we all chipped in with chores and dishes etc.
OP Atch 17 | 3,289
18 Dec 2015 #93
the poor husband in the middle, torn between his own family and his wife's.

No problems there when I was a child. My father and his parents cordially detested each other and they were notoriously inhospitable to boot so there was never any question of having to go there. That's very rare for an Irish family but I blame their Cromwellian origins for that though my paternal granny was very fond of her gin and tonic.
jon357 63 | 15,441
18 Dec 2015 #94
And in Scotland, the first visitor over the threshold after midnight on New Year's Eve was ideally a tall, dark haired man, as this was said to bring good luck for the year! He was known as the First Foot.

And always with a lump of coal. I do this in Poland too.
Roger5 1 | 1,458
18 Dec 2015 #95
We threw lumps of coal at neighbours' doors, and made a din with pots and pans. Along with the boats on the Thames blaring their horns it was a fine racket.
OP Atch 17 | 3,289
18 Dec 2015 #96
the boats on the Thames blaring their horns

Yes, they do that in Ireland too, being so small and with so much coastline you hear that even in the suburbs of Dublin; I miss that, you don't hear it in Warsaw.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
18 Dec 2015 #97
cordially detested each other

Interesting point. Made me wonder to what extent our views are shaped by personal experience. Thank God I was fortunate to have been brought up in a very harmonious family. Oh sure, there was one distant uncle who usually had one too many and would fall off a chair and disrupt things, and there was even one divorce (horrors!) in the family. But no standing feuds, no-one coridally detested anyone and everyone got on really well. No fighting over estates either. My dad being better off than his younger brother readily gave up his share of the family home after my grandparents died.

Maybe that's why I'm so pro-family. Others on PF seem less so and I wonder if that stems from personal experience or other reasons. Maybe if I had had a drunken mum and abusive dad I would have viewed things differently. Whaddya think?
Roger5 1 | 1,458
20 Dec 2015 #98
Someone put this on the office pinboard.


  • Pinned up in the office
mafketis 24 | 8,817
20 Dec 2015 #99
It looks like "Szopka bożonarodzeniowa bez żydów, arabów i uchodźców" (roughly: Christmas manger without jews, nobility or refugees).

In other words, it's a manger with some animals in it.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
20 Dec 2015 #100
Christmas

A cartoon seen in a Polish magazine a few years back:
A group of people seated round a food-laden table scarfing down msuhrioom soup, fish, pierogi, poppyseed roll and suchlike on Christmas Eve. Suddenly there's a faint knock on the door. "I'll go see who it is," someone says. "Who was it*" the company ask. "Just some small infant. I told him there was no room in the inn."
OP Atch 17 | 3,289
20 Dec 2015 #101
pro-family. Others on PF seem less so and I wonder if that stems from personal experience or other reasons.

I think Polly that we're all a combination of nature and nurture but I think that in the end it's the genes that are the deciding factor. What I find fascinating is the differences between siblings raised in the same home environment and yet often so different to each other and that's why I think genetics are the decider. Siblings have the same gene pool but a different mix of those genes to each other so despite being raised in the same home by the same parents, they can be quite different to each other in character, interests etc. You know how even in appearance some children take after the father's side and some the mother's. Off-topic response to off-topic comment but hey, it's Christmas! Thank you Moderators.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
21 Dec 2015 #102
Christmas!

POLISH & AMERICAN CHRISTMAS

Traditionally Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas season in America. But at shopping centers the first Christmas displays can be already be seen in October and early November. Also in Poland many people complain about rushing the holidays, when they see decorations go about right after All Saints and All Souls Day (Nov. 1-2). In America, some families put up their Christmas trees shortly after Thanksgiving, so they are sick of them by the time Christmas rolls around.

Much of American Christmas lore centers on Santa Claus, because that character is such a convenient marketing tool. Santa is portrayed as a plump, overgrown elf in a red suit who travels through the sky in a sleigh drawn by reindeer. He is said to slide down the chimney, fill stockings hanging by the fireplace with goodies and leave presents under the Christmas tree.

Christmas carols tell the story of Jesus' birth, while holiday songs talk about a white Christmas, snowmen, Santa, children playing and chestnuts roasting. Typical American Christmas symbols are Christmas trees, Santa Claus, reindeer, sleighs, snowmen, elves, candy canes, holly wreaths and bells. Polish Christmas symbols include the Christmas tree as well as star of Bethlehem, Christmas cribs, hay and the white Christmas wafer. But due to high-powered marketing, all the alien Anglo-commercial Yuletide artifacts are increasingly seeping into Poland.

To most Americans that big Christmas dinner means roast turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce, eggnog and fruit cake Poles mainly think of Christmas Eve supper, where they share the Christmas wafer and enjoy an array of traditional meatless dishes. These include beetroot soup, herring, fish, mushrooms and sauerkraut, stewed fruit and poppyseed noodles.

Christmas

Here's the Beeb's take on Wigilia:

facebook.com/BBCSouthToday/videos/vb.153132638110668/951136071643650/?type=2&theater
johnny reb 28 | 4,996
21 Dec 2015 #103
The children are what make Christmas magic.
It seems as a child our Polish Christmas started with midnight mass and then home to open our presents which were mostly
new school cloths and maybe one toy.
Then Christmas day was glutening ourselves on all kinds of Polish foods.
The main course was a baked goose with baked mince pies, neither what us children liked.
The men sat around after the main meal and boozed it up watching the football game on t.v. while the children where to be seen but not heard without having a t.v. or computer.

The women cleaned up the mess from the meal while sipping Polish honey wine.
How it has changed as we now still attend church Christmas eve and open our presents however NO alcohol is necessary for our family.
We have a spiral ham and lemon pie which the children enjoy.
We draw family names a week before Christmas dinner and have to say something nice about that person at the dinner table before we eat. Can you imagine drawing uncle Harry's name :-]

That is followed by everyone helping clean up the mess with joyful chatter.
Dessert is served with everyone sharing their highlight of the last year.
Very family oriented fun as the excitement and magic comes from the children.
How times have changed.
OP Atch 17 | 3,289
21 Dec 2015 #104
POLISH & AMERICAN CHRISTMAS

POLISH AND IRISH CHRISTMAS

An Irish Christmas is all about socialising. There are huge extended family gatherings and visiting of neighbours and friends. For years the returning emigrants home for the festive season lent a very special flavour to the season. Of course it's still the case that people returning for Christmas is a big thing but I think less so than in the 1980s for example when so many of the young had gone to England, Australia, USA, Canada etc. There were fewer cheap flights and they didn't make it home that often, it was a big deal coming 'home' for Christmas.

To me the Polish Christmas feels slightly sombre and sober compared to the Irish which is very high spirited, merry and filled with laughter and smiles, even in settings where there's no alcohol! The religious aspect is still important to many. Midnight mass is very well attended and again, the atmosphere there is generally a happy, joyous one with lots of beautiful carols, the singing is very important. That's another aspect of Irish Christmas, the music. Lots of talking, lots of laughter and the sound of music, that's an Irish Christmas to me!
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
21 Dec 2015 #105
Irish which is very high spirited

But perhaps too much of the cheer comes out of a bottle?! Booze-ups are two a penny and Poles are certainly no teetotalers. But Wigilia is in a class all its own. It is not sombre but exudes a touch of solemntiy, something clearly lacking in the razzle-dazzle, whoop-it-up celebrations of the West, where most people have lost any sense of the sacred. This is not directed at the Irish but at America and the remaining devleoped West. As my former colleague Beranrd Marguerite ("Le monde", French radio et al) once told a Polish TV interviewer: "Paris is the most illuminated city in the world at Christmas. Dazzling cascading garlands of lights everywhere, people rushing to and fro, shopping, visitng bistros, cafés and restaurants, except for one thing. They don't really know why they're doing all that!"
OP Atch 17 | 3,289
21 Dec 2015 #106
But perhaps too much of the cheer comes out of a bottle?!

Well the Irish are fond of a drink of course but as I said:

filled with laughter and smiles, even in settings where there's no alcohol!

Irish people are generally cheerful. After all I spent many Christmases in primary schools where there wasn't a drop of alcohol to be seen and we had crack in the staffroom!
Harry
21 Dec 2015 #107
Booze-ups are two a penny and Poles are certainly no teetotalers. But Wigilia is in a class all its own.

Having had more than a few of each, there's certainly a lot more drinking at a Polish Christmas eve supper than at a British Christmas day lunch.

It is not sombre but exudes a touch of solemntiy

None of the Polish Christmas eve suppers I've been to would be described as 'solemn'; perhaps people find it hard to enjoy themselves in certain company?
OP Atch 17 | 3,289
21 Dec 2015 #108
more drinking at a Polish Christmas eve supper than at a British Christmas day lunch.

Husband says there was no drinking in his house before midnight but that at the stroke, the men were at the vodka bottle and it pretty much continued for the next 48 hours!
Ironside 49 | 10,585
21 Dec 2015 #109
Having had more than a few of each, there's certainly a lot more drinking at a Polish Christmas eve supper than at a British Christmas day lunch.

You must have been associating with some degenerates I have never seen anybody drinking on a Christmas Eve.

pretty much continued for the next 48 hours!

Err a pretty moderate drinking on a Christmas day, 48 hours? I know alcoholics do that.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
21 Dec 2015 #110
Polish Christmas

One thing nobody has mentioned so far is that the Wigilia gathering starts with the reading of St Luke's gospel about the birth of Christ, then Grace is said and the opłatek is broken and shared fromt he eldest down to the youngest.

All that enhances the uniquely solemn and beautiful aura surrounding this ritual supper and sets it apart from the nondescript run-of-the-mill booze-ups and pig-outs.
Dougpol1 32 | 3,274
21 Dec 2015 #111
You must have been associating with some degenerates I have never seen anybody drinking on a Christmas Eve

You're living in the past. If peeps want a glass or three to wash down that ugly Wigilia food what has it got to do with you?

the Wigilia gathering starts with the reading of St Luke's gospel about the birth of Christ, then Grace is said and the opłatek is broken and shared from the eldest down to the youngest.

What?

Maybe in religious households like yours' Polonius but I would never stand for that sanctimonious rubbish at my table.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
21 Dec 2015 #112
want a glass or three

Let them booze it up. There's no law against that!

but that at the stroke,

Surely at the stroke of midinight they first went to Midnight Mass and then started boozing it up. In my wife's family it was common to come home from Midnight Mass to hot kaszanka (black pudding) in the coal-fired oven, and naturally it had to be washed down with a 50% tipple.

Next day it was morning Mass, also on the 2nd day of Christmas and St John's Day (27th Dec) which included the blesssing of wine.
OP Atch 17 | 3,289
22 Dec 2015 #113
degenerates

run-of-the-mill booze-ups and pig-outs.

sanctimonious rubbish

And we're back! You're all at it again, not that you ever really stopped of course. You're like a little family of Jack Russells.

Surely at the stroke of midinight they first went to Midnight Mass and then started boozing it up

I was speaking figuratively, in that once midnight had passed, they would certainly have a drink,
but they weren't an especially religious family. When the children were young they were definitely taken to mass by their mother but I think once they'd all made their confirmation the parents considered they'd done their duty. There were definitely no gospel readings before Wigilia supper. I must check with him but I think that the men of the family didn't really bother about Midnight Mass but the women went.

48 hours? I know alcoholics do that.

I would say that it's common for Polish people to offer their Christmas guests/visitors a libation (lovely old fashioned word isn't it?). If I were visiting someone on the 25th I would expect to see the old glass of dessert wine being offered to the 'ladies' and a drop of the hard stuff or a bottle of beer for the men. The fact that alcohol is consumed as part of the festivities doesn't mean that people are alcoholics, though of course most extended families in Poland or Ireland have at least one bona fide alcoholic.

Anyway we won't argue about it. Let us put aside our wrangling and quarrelsome ways in deference to the season- ooh, I've come over all Victorian. Pickwick Papers, A Christmas Carol, God Bless Charles Dickens and all things Christmassy - God Bless us all, every one.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
22 Dec 2015 #114
someone on the 25th

On th first, second and 3rd days of Christmas, New Year's Eve and Day and the Three Kings and throughout the season alcohol flows freely in Poland. IT'S ONLY WIGILIA THAT'S SO SPECIAL, UNIQUE, TIME-HONOURED, SYMBOLIC AND SINGULAR. It would have to be to get a nation of boozers like Poles, even if it's only many or most of them, to lay off the tipple on even one night a year!

And Atch -- this is just a friendly exchange, an opportunity to learn how others view things without malice or rancour, perhaps with a touch of light-hearted banter but all within the bounds of the Christmas spirit!

TOBIE, ATCH, I TWOJEJ RODZINIE Z SERCA ŻYCZĘ MI£YCH, CIEP£YCH, RADOSNYCH I B£OGOS£AWIONYCH ŚWIĄT BOŻEGO NARODZENIA oraz OBFITYCH £ASK BOŻEGO DZIECIĄTKA PRZEZ CA£Y NOWY 2016 ROK! Translation: HAPPY CHRISTMAS!
OP Atch 17 | 3,289
22 Dec 2015 #115
IT'S ONLY WIGILIA THAT'S SO SPECIAL

Yes, for me as an Irish person, it reminds me of Good Friday, to tell you the truth! No red meat, no alcohol. In Ireland no alcohol is sold on Good Friday and I remember once the local branch of Tesco had to close because although they weren't selling alcohol, the off-licence section wasn't considered to be suitably separated from the rest of the produce. I remember the Gardai outside and the general to-do and hoo ha. It's very rare to see a Garda making a fuss about anything in Ireland, it's always 'that wouldn't be anything to do with us, that's a civil matter'. Anyway they managed to block off the area with some kind of make-shift shutters or something and were open again within a couple of hours. In a truly hilarious and typically Irish fashion hotels are allowed to serve alcohol on Good Friday 'as part of a substantial meal'.

For years the returning emigrants home for the festive season lent a very special flavour to the season.

And here's a lovely video from Dublin Airport that will warm the cockles of even the hardest heart. At one point of there's a pair of really adorable little tots, I'd say they're about three years old, welcoming each other home and somewhere in the middle is a host of 'wholesome' Irish schoolgirls to delight Polly, carol singing in their lovely navy blue school uniforms:

youtube.com/watch?v=gyB8UMfVoWk

An Irish Christmas

filled with laughter and smiles,

I really have to go and do something useful now, after nine o'clock and not a child in the house washed as we say in my part of the world.
johnny reb 28 | 4,996
22 Dec 2015 #116
My day has been totally ruined as this is what popped up when I clicked on that link.

"This video contains content from communicorpdigital.
It is not available in your country.
Sorry about that."

Hum Bug !
Roger5 1 | 1,458
22 Dec 2015 #117
Thanks for that, Atch. It's easy to forget just how much love there is in the world. Got me all misty-eyed. Hope I get that welcome when I go to Dublin next Feb!
OP Atch 17 | 3,289
22 Dec 2015 #118
Aw, I'm so glad someone watched it, I thought it would be dismissed as nausea inducing sentimentality.

Now if we're in the mood for some music, here's the absolutely perfect song for Wigilia. I've not heard it sung in Poland but if it isn't it should be.

What would an Irish Christmas be without 'Oh Holy Night', the staple of every school and church concert and many a staff room sing-song in my teaching years. In every Irish school there seems to be an older teacher with a beautiful soprano voice to start it off. There may be younger teachers with an equally lovely voice, but Oh Holy Night is a badge of honour and always goes to the most senior staff! (I bet they have to advertise every few years, Junior Infant teacher required, ability to sing solo in Oh Holy Night a distinct advantage, must complete minimum ten years service before doing so'.)

Anyway it may an Irish favourite but nobody sings carols like the English. My mother once paid me the great compliment of informing me that I sang hymns with 'the true Protestant hoot'! And here it is from King's College Cambridge, Christmas Eve service of the Nine Lessons and Carols, it's a really beautiful arrangement so if anyone here is musical you'll love this:

youtube.com/watch?v=rYyhLkQV6no
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
22 Dec 2015 #119
'Oh Holy Night'

Agreed! One of the "movingest" of English carols. And it only emerged in the
1950s or thereabouts.
OP Atch 17 | 3,289
22 Dec 2015 #120
It's about a hundred years older than that Polly, written around the mid 1800s. I imagine it was the recording industry that popularised it. It was recorded by the famous tenor Caruso sometime before 1920 which may account for its long standing popularity in Ireland as the Irish loved a good tenor and he was hugely popular with my grandfather's generation.


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